I am not a runner. I’m not very good at running, even though my lanky frame might suggest otherwise. And I’m ok with that, now after 42 years on this earth. I don’t enjoy it. Every time I run away from the gym on the trail I think of all the barbells and pull-up bars that must be getting lonely.
I don’t think Jason Shand would identify as a runner. He grew up in a hockey family, played football and baseball, and looks like he can squat, press and deadlift a ridiculous amount of weight, which he can. Last weekend Jason ran the JFK 50-Miler, a 50 MILE point-to-point trail and road race in western Maryland, in 12 hours. This was not a fluke, he had a smart training plan that he had been following for months. Why? Without putting words in his mouth, because it was hard. Because he knew it would push him WAY out of his comfort zone and help him to grow. To grow in his physical capacity for running and endurance events in general. But even more importantly to grow as a person.
Doing hard stuff sucks. Many people stop at that thought, and decide not to do the hard stuff. Not to sign up for a challenging event that seems out of their comfort zone. Not to push for one more round, not to hang out in the pain cave for a little bit longer to get that new PR. And it makes sense on the surface — why would anyone voluntarily bring suffering upon themselves? Nick Palmisciano, a US Army veteran and CEO of Ranger Up, says that “Everyone has a breaking point. For most people, that point is very low, which is why many people never push themselves past their comfort zone… The dirty little secret is that everyone has a coward inside them, and if you really want to be tough, and I mean that both physically and mentally, you have to push that coward to the breaking point and then push past it every day. You have to embrace suffering.”
So leaning into suffering makes us tougher. I would also suggest that leaning into suffering, experiencing the extreme lows of hard training leading up to harder challenges, helps us appreciate the “highs” of our lives that much more! Think about the reward that’s waiting for you on the other side of the tough experience. Think about the feeling of really enjoying the comforts of home and hanging out with friends and family, after the sacrifice of hours of training.
And finally, training outside of your comfort zone promotes personal growth. Training in a way that challenges you physically, but also mentally and emotionally, creates personal breakthroughs about the person that you really are, and the strength that you have inside to confidently fulfill your purpose in life. Get ready to experience “If I can do ______, I can do anything,” kind of thinking.
If you find yourself generally hanging out in that comfort zone, find a challenge that will blast you out of there. You’ll experience some discomfort, some pain and frustration. Some really hard days of training. But it will all be worth it when you experience that joy of accomplishment, and the resulting growth and momentum that comes from it.
Congrats to Jason once again for his huge accomplishment!